Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Supporting heroes?

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In my book, I consider the question whether there is a ‘compensation culture’. Over recent years, it has been frequently argued that we have become too keen to resort to litigation when things go wrong – on the basis that bad events are other people’s’ fault -, rather than accept that sometimes one is the victim of bad luck. I argue that this view should be challenged – on the basis that research evidence shows that huge numbers of people with potential legal claims in fact do nothing about them – either through ignorance, fear of costs, reluctance to go to lawyers etc.

At the same time, however, advertising campaigns encouraging people to claim when they have had accidents are perceived as encouraging the bringing of unmeritorious proceedings, which in turn can add to insurance costs.

The Government has recently come to the view that the present state of the law has led to people thinking that they should not intervene in emergencies, or run public events, or lead school trips in case they get sued for negligence if things go wrong. And insurance companies have been seen to be charging high premiums which have led to events not taking place.

The Government’s response is the publication of the rather imposingly named Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill 2014-15. It is actually a very short Bill, but one which, if enacted, will require judges to make some rather teasing judgements. Indeed, the outcome of the Bill may be to encourage, rather than deter, the bringing of actions.

The Bill provides that when dealing with negligence claims or claims for breach of statutory duty the courts should to consider:

  • whether the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting for the benefit of society or any of its members (clause 2) ;
  • whether the person , in carrying out the activity giving rise to the claim , demonstrated a generally responsible approach towards protecting the safety or other interests of others (clause 3) ;
  • whether the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting heroically by intervening in an emergency to assist an individual in danger and without regard to his or her own safety or other interests (clause 4).

For further information see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/grayling-law-must-protect-everyday-heroes
See also http://public-scrutiny-office.org/bills/2014-2015/social-action-responsibility-and-heroism

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Written by lwtmp

July 30, 2014 at 4:10 pm

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